Then: Here, ghosty ghosty. Ghosts. Ghosts. Ghosts. At this point, I turned to The Husband and confidently said "I think the monster's going to be a ghost." (Spoiler alert: ha ha.) Also, the Darkness is named Amara and eats souls.
The "Now" takes place in Fall River, Massachusetts, and I can't figure out why that's so familiar. A young couple is enjoying a scary room, and it's all fun and games until someone gets an ax in the back. Oh, and we're in Lizzie Borden's B&B. That's why I know Fall River.
When Sam finds out about the deaths, we get some nice continuity where Dean reminds us of Sam's "freaky fetish for serial killers." It turns out Sam has always wanted to see Lizzie Borden's house, so off they go. Without Cas, who is binge-watching The Wire. I kind of preferred it when we didn't have to make excuses for Cas not going with the brothers. I'd like to get back to that, if that's okay.
(Also, I really, really dislike Thin Lizzy, and I'm inclined to not like this episode just because of the title. On the other hand, I am very interested in Lizzie Borden. So I guess they cancel each other out.)
At Lizzie's B&B, her alleged ax hangs in a place of honor on the wall. Sam and Dean play believer/non-believer and try to pry some info out of Mason the innkeeper, which he won't provide unless they're actually paying guests, with the emphasis on paying. Mason's mom comes in and yells at him, which causes Dean to remark that "working with family can be tough."
Yeah, I know. Mine tried to kill me.
The guys book the murder room and discover that the male half of the murdered couple was actually a descendant of "the original Bordens" (not a direct descendant, I presume, since Lizzie had no children and I'm 99% sure her sister didn't either.) The room only has one bed, and a thousand slash writers tuck this away in their "ways to force Sam and Dean to share a bed" folders. Those of us who like our relationships canonical are pleased to note that neither brother is remotely interested in sharing the bed, with Sam insisting Dean has to find another room, because this is Lizzie's original room and he's not giving it up. Sam pulls out the EMF meter and finds that the room is very buzzy, but the signals stop at the door. He also sprays some lavender toilet water "to see if the squeezy thing worked" and my theory is that Sam smelling like the lavender toilet water is going to make him a target somehow. (Spoiler alert: I'm wrong.) Dean is horrified at the idea of toilet water, as if he thinks it comes from the toilet, which is annoying. Seriously annoying. I don't like it when Sam's made stupid as a plot device, and it's equally unpleasant when Dean's made stupid to provide humor. But I do have to confess I love Sam just wanting to see if the squeezy thing worked, so I'll forgive it.
You can squeeze my squeezy thing, Sammy.
The brothers split up to explore the B&B, where they discover that someone outside is taking pictures of the building, there's an EMF generator in the attic, and hidden speakers and timers provide the weird noises and flickering lights. Poor Sam must be so disillusioned. And Dean uses "sherlock" as a verb. Since the murder obviously has nothing to do with spirits in the house, the guys decide to flee the "doily coffin." However, someone has other plans, because Mason's mean Mommy turns out the lobby lights and doesn't notice Lizzie's ax is missing! Oh noes! Yep. Mommy gets axed.
Agents Collins and Gabriel (who you might remember from 10.11) are now working the case. Dean asks about the mystery photographer and finds out he's "Len, total teddy bear. Obsessed with ghosts, but harmless." On their way to interview Len, in a completely fixed-up Baby, they get a phone call alerting them to another ax murder. Sam investigates the murder and interviews the witness - the babysitter - and notices the victim's wife is way too calm and uncaring about the whole thing. She refuses to answer questions, and kicks cute Agent Collins out of her house. The actual police detective says the whole town's panicking like it's "The Purge," and I don't know what his problem is. That wasn't really such an awful episode.
Meanwhile, Dean finds that Len is a harmless teddy bear who's obsessed with Lizzie's ghost but banned from the B&B, and it doesn't seem like anything's going to happen here until he spots this.
Oh hell. This just got interesting.
Len confesses that he saw the mark on a girl he spotted outside the B&B. He refers to her as a 12-year-old, but this kid is at least 15. And her name was Amara. (duh duh duuuuuh!!!) And it turns out Len is desperate to find her, because he hasn't been right since then. He doesn't eat, or sleep, or enjoy things he used to enjoy, and Dean doesn't have the benefit of the flashback we just saw, but yeah, this sounds familiar to him. He gets it. Len's soul got eaten.
I bet you sleep with hippies too.
When Dean tells Sam what's going on, he complains that they can't kill Len because he hasn't done anything yet. Sam reminds him that they don't want to kill Len anyway, because they're saving people, remember? They discuss something that many of us have already questioned - why do some people become killers when they lose their soul, and others don't? They don't come up with an answer, but they look nice trying. I like this scene. It's pretty, the boys are talking, they're bringing up things from earlier episodes so there's some continuity, and it's pretty.
They also argue about who's going to tell Len he's soulless, and don't come up with an answer to that one either. They're not sure Len isn't going to kill someone at some point, so they decide they need to babysit him while they look for the killer, who may be another one of Amara's discarded take-out containers. Sam tells Dean about the victim's wife from earlier, how her behavior is similar to his when he was soulless, and Dean sensitively says "Oh yeah, you were one chilly droid."
The next morning, with Len in tow (much like Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon), they visit the second murder house and find no one home. Sam calls the babysitter, who reveals mom had a boyfriend and might be at his house. In the back seat, Len rattles on and on about things he doesn't like any more (eucalyptus, dark curly hair) and things that don't bother him any more (shaking hands, the idea of licking the sweat off a stranger's body part) and he feels like something's hatching inside of him. Something dark. With wings.
That can't be good.
Dean finally snaps, cuffs Len to the door handle, and tells him he doesn't have a soul. Poor Len takes it pretty well, saying it's good to finally know.
The boyfriend's house is locked and no one answers the door, but Sam recognizes the mom's car and Dean sees evidence of a fight inside, so they break in and find the bodies of the mom and the boyfriend. Someone knocks Dean out, and I guess we can take mom off the list of suspects. Sam finds the mom's son, Jordy, tied up in a closet, and puts his gun down to rescue him, and you know how that's going to turn out. Someone cocks a shotgun and whoops. It's Sydney the killer babysitter.
Sydney tells them they're going to be an offering to her new best friend, Amara, and we get a flashback where they meet cute. Things I like about this scene:
- The bar is called Molly's Hatchet Room
- "Excuse me? Drunk girl?"
Amara grabs Sydney's hand and makes her happy (any Ren and Stimpy watchers thinking of the happy helmet? No? Just me?) and then sucks down her soul. End flashback.
As Sydney describes how wonderful it was to be blissfully memory-free (turns out she's had a pretty bad childhood), Sam works on the ropes around his wrists and Dean looks pretty with blood on his face. Imagine that.
You don't have to imagine it. You're welcome.
Without her soul, Sydney is free of the nightmares and pain, but also free of the voice in her head telling her "you can't do that." And it turns out the guy who was killed at the beginning was her ex-boyfriend, and Mason's dead mom was her former boss, and the couple she babysat for were horrible parents, so none of the killings were random. At this point, Dean says something snarky and gets slammed in the face with the shotgun, Sam breaks free, Amara tries to shoot him but something stops her, and it turns out the something is Len, with an ax. Aw, Len. Just like your hero Lizzie.
As she dies, Sydney says "the Darkness is coming. It's so peaceful. It's coming for all of us." Ominous music.
Sam sits outside with the now-orphaned Jordy and tells him his own happy family history and assures him he's going to be okay. Sad music.
Len tells Dean he mutilated his own hand, not because he wanted to rescue them, but because he wanted to see if he could do it. He's concerned that he feels nothing about murdering Sydney, nor about saving Sam and Dean. Dean tells him that if there's even a shred of conscience inside him, there's reason for hope (although Dean of all people should know that's not always the case), but Len doesn't agree. He knows he'll kill again if he's not stopped, so he suggests Dean kill him first. Dean refuses, so he decides to confess to the murders and get himself locked away.
This is the face of someone who's never eating a mini hot dog again.
In the end-of the episode Impala scene, the brothers discuss the different ways Amara affects people - Len thought she was creepy; Sydney couldn't get enough of her. Of course, she didn't take away Len's memories of an abusive childhood, so that could have something to do with it. Dean denies feeling anything at all when he was with her, and suggests they might follow "the crazy you've been seeing," so I guess he's decided Sam's visions weren't a fever dream after all.
As they drive off, Amara comes out from the trees and smiles happily, telling Dean she'll see him soon.
So. This one started off slow but got better once it became a Darkness story and not just a standalone MoTW. Poor Len reminds me so much of Soulless!Sam. He remembers what it was like to do the right thing, to think he should probably do good even if he doesn't really have any desire to do so, and decides to do what it takes to get back to being that person. Of course, Sam backed out at the end when he found out it would probably kill him, and who knows what Len will ultimately do. Sydney, on the other hand, is more like MoC!Dean or Demon!Dean. There's nothing stopping her from doing whatever bad things popped into her head, whether it's killing her old boyfriend or singing really bad karaoke on purpose. And the fact that Amara affects different people in different ways is something I really hope they don't drop. As well as whatever dark, winged evil might be hatching inside Len.
What did you think? Please remember, no spoilers in the comments!
(What's that you say? Needs more Sam? By god, I think you're right.)
(By the way, if you're interested in Lizzie Borden, I highly recommend "A Private Disgrace" by Victoria Lincoln.)